For the last few weeks I have talked about how unions influence public improvement projects through prevailing wage laws and litigation in Ohio stemming from alleged violations of these laws. I mentioned before that not all public improvement projects require payment of prevailing wages. Public schools and hospitals are exempt. But once again, unions are not satisfied with that. Unions have put pressure on the Cincinnati Public School Board to change their policy regarding awarding contracts for their public improvement projects to require contractors to pay prevailing wages on all projects. The board did not unanimously agree that these changes were the right thing to do. In fact, the board did not have a super majority in favor of this change, which was required by their by-laws to change a policy.
Originally, the board voted but did not have the super majority vote; therefore, the board's attorney claimed the vote had failed. The supporters of the change, both unions and those on the board, found another way to get what they wanted. While one member, who happened to be an opponent of the policy change, was out of the country the board voted again - claiming they did not need the super majority vote after all. They claimed that vote was only required to pass emergency measures and this vote did not qualify. So they claim the vote passed, and now any contractor bidding on construction projects for Cincinnati Public Schools must pay prevailing wages (union wages) and abide by all of the aspects of Ohio's prevailing wage laws.
An official from the construction company overseeing Cincinnati School's construction work is quoted in a recent news article as saying these new requirements "could add up to $20 million to the $1.07 billion dollar project." Of course the unions claim this figure is incorrect and there would be no added cost. Now how can that be? Union wages are inflated well above market wage rates. If you pay union wages, which contractors working for Cincinnati Public Schools will now have to do, there will be an increased cost for the project as a whole. How can you pay higher wages but not see an increase in the cost of the project? How can the members of the Cincinnati School Board justify this increase in cost? In a time when schools don't have enough money and we are continuously hearing about schools closing, jobs being cut and school boards unable to balance their budgets, how can this school board approve a policy which will cost significantly more money?
It is interesting that all of this comes right before elections for the Cincinnati School Board are about to take place. Of course this has become an issue among candidates. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on votes. I can only hope that taxpayers have an opportunity to hear about this issue and truly understand what it means. One candidate in the race for Cincinnati's School Board was quoted as saying this new policy "is a sellout of the students, parents and taxpayers of the district in exchange for union campaign contributions and endorsements." This is not a surprise. Unions typically use political pressure to get what they want.